How To Treat a Sunburn: Preventing Peeling Skin

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to treat sunburn. Whether you’ve spent too much time under the sun’s rays or accidentally skipped the sunscreen, sunburns can be uncomfortable and even painful. In this article, we will explore various methods and remedies to help you soothe your sunburned skin and promote healing.

Sunburn occurs when the skin is overexposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. It typically leads to redness, pain, and peeling, and in severe cases, it may cause blisters and fever. Treating sunburn properly is essential to minimize discomfort and prevent long-term damage.

Remember, prevention is the best approach to avoid sunburn altogether. However, if you find yourself dealing with a sunburn, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Let’s delve into the world of sunburn treatment and discover effective strategies for relief and recovery.

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Recognizing the Symptoms of Sunburn

Sunburn manifests in various ways, and it’s important to recognize the symptoms to take appropriate action. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

1. Skin Redness and Sensitivity

One of the earliest signs of sunburn is redness in the affected area. The skin may appear pink or bright red and feel warm or sensitive to the touch. Keep in mind that sunburn may take a few hours to develop fully, so symptoms may not be immediately apparent.

2. Pain and Discomfort

Sunburned skin often becomes painful, especially when touched or exposed to clothing or other irritants. You may experience a stinging or burning sensation in the affected area. Discomfort levels can vary from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the burn.

3. Swelling and Inflammation

In some cases, sunburn can cause mild swelling and inflammation in the affected area. This can result in a puffy appearance and increased sensitivity.

4. Itching and Peeling

As your sunburn begins to heal, you may experience itching and peeling of the skin. This is a normal part of the recovery process, but it’s important to avoid scratching, as it can further irritate the skin and prolong the healing time.

5. Blisters (in Severe Cases)

Severe sunburns can lead to the formation of blisters. If you notice blisters on your sunburned skin, it indicates a more severe burn. It’s crucial to take proper care and seek medical attention if needed.

Remember, everyone’s reaction to sunburn can vary, and symptoms may not be limited to the ones mentioned above. Pay close attention to any changes in your skin after sun exposure, and take prompt action to alleviate discomfort and aid in the healing process.

Immediate Steps to Take When Sunburned

When you realize you have sunburn, it’s important to take immediate action to minimize further damage and provide relief. Follow these steps to start treating your sunburn right away:

1. Get out of the Sun

As soon as you notice the signs of sunburn, seek shade or move indoors to protect your skin from further UV exposure. Continued sun exposure can worsen the burn and prolong the healing process.

2. Cool the Skin

Cooling the affected area can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Take a cool shower or bath, or apply cool compresses to the sunburned skin. Avoid using very cold water, as it can shock the skin.

3. Hydrate Your Body

Sunburn can dehydrate your body, so it’s important to replenish lost fluids. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte-rich beverages to stay hydrated and aid in the healing process.

4. Take Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with sunburn. Follow the instructions on the packaging for proper dosage.

5. Moisturize the Skin

After cooling the skin, apply a gentle moisturizer or aloe vera gel to help soothe and hydrate the sunburned area. Avoid using petroleum-based products, as they can trap heat and worsen the burn.

6. Avoid Irritants and Tight Clothing

Avoid wearing tight or rough-textured clothing that may further irritate the sunburned skin. Opt for loose-fitting, breathable fabrics. Also, avoid applying irritants such as perfumes, lotions with alcohol, or harsh chemicals to the affected area.

Remember, these immediate steps are meant to provide initial relief and support the healing process. However, for severe sunburns or if you’re experiencing intense pain, blistering, or other concerning symptoms, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.

Cooling and Soothing Sunburned Skin

After taking immediate steps to address your sunburn, it’s crucial to focus on cooling and soothing the affected skin. Here are some effective methods to provide relief and promote healing:

1. Apply Cold Compresses or Cool Baths

Continue to cool the sunburned skin by applying cold compresses or taking cool baths. You can use a clean cloth soaked in cold water or add a few cups of oatmeal or baking soda to a lukewarm bath for added soothing benefits.

2. Use Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera is renowned for its cooling and healing properties. Apply pure aloe vera gel directly to the sunburned skin to soothe inflammation and provide relief. Look for products without added dyes or fragrances for optimal results.

3. Try Chamomile or Green Tea

Brew some chamomile or green tea and let it cool. Soak a clean cloth or cotton pads in the tea and gently apply it to the sunburned areas. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of these teas can help soothe the skin.

4. Use Hydrating and Soothing Lotions

Opt for moisturizers or lotions specifically formulated for sunburned skin. Look for products containing ingredients like aloe vera, cucumber extract, or hyaluronic acid, which can provide hydration and alleviate discomfort.

5. Avoid Harsh Skincare Products

While your sunburn is healing, avoid using harsh skincare products that can further irritate the skin. This includes exfoliants, alcohol-based toners, and fragranced lotions. Stick to gentle, mild cleansers and moisturizers during this time.

6. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated from within. Proper hydration supports the healing process and helps replenish lost fluids due to sunburn. Additionally, eating foods rich in water content, such as fruits and vegetables, can also contribute to hydration.

Remember, everyone’s skin reacts differently, so it’s essential to listen to your body and adjust the methods that work best for you. Keep in mind that severe sunburns may require medical attention, so consult a healthcare professional if you experience intense pain, blistering, or signs of infection.

Over-the-Counter Remedies for Sunburn Relief

In addition to home remedies, there are several over-the-counter (OTC) products available that can provide additional relief from sunburn. Here are some commonly used OTC remedies:

1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling associated with sunburn. Follow the instructions on the packaging and consult a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.

2. Topical Hydrocortisone Creams

Hydrocortisone creams or ointments can help alleviate itching and inflammation caused by sunburn. Use them sparingly and according to the instructions on the packaging. Avoid applying them to large areas of the body or broken skin without medical advice.

3. Aloe Vera-Based Gels or Lotions

Over-the-counter aloe vera-based gels or lotions can provide additional cooling and soothing effects for sunburned skin. Look for products that contain a high percentage of pure aloe vera and avoid those with added fragrances or colorants.

4. Moisturizing and Cooling Sprays

There are OTC sprays available that combine moisturizing and cooling properties to provide instant relief for sunburn. These sprays often contain ingredients like aloe vera, cucumber extract, or menthol, which can help soothe the skin and reduce discomfort.

5. Oatmeal-Based Products

Oatmeal-based products, such as creams, lotions, or bath additives, can provide relief for sunburned skin. Oatmeal has soothing properties that can help calm irritation and itching. Look for products specifically formulated for sunburn or sensitive skin.

6. Barrier Creams or Sprays

Barrier creams or sprays create a protective layer over the sunburned skin, helping to lock in moisture and prevent further irritation. Look for products containing ingredients like dimethicone or zinc oxide, which can provide a barrier effect.

Remember, while these OTC remedies can help provide relief, it’s important to read and follow the instructions on the packaging carefully. If your sunburn worsens, persists, or shows signs of infection, it’s recommended to seek medical advice for appropriate treatment.

Natural Remedies and Home Treatments for Sunburn

If you prefer natural remedies and home treatments for sunburn, there are several options available that can help soothe your skin and promote healing. Here are some effective natural remedies to consider:

1. Cool Compresses with Milk

Soak a clean cloth in cold milk and apply it to the sunburned skin. The proteins and fat in milk can help soothe inflammation and provide relief.

2. Cool Bath with Baking Soda or Oatmeal

Add a cup of baking soda or colloidal oatmeal to a cool bath and soak in it for 15-20 minutes. These ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties that can help calm the skin and reduce itching.

3. Natural Aloe Vera Gel

Extract the gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf and apply it directly to the sunburned area. Aloe vera has soothing and cooling properties that can provide relief and aid in the healing process.

4. Cold Compresses with Green Tea

Brew green tea and let it cool. Soak a clean cloth or cotton pads in the tea and gently apply it to the sunburned skin. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in green tea can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

5. Hydrating Cucumber Slices

Place chilled cucumber slices on the sunburned skin. Cucumbers have a high water content and natural cooling properties that can help soothe and hydrate the skin.

6. Moisturizing with Pure Coconut Oil

After cooling the skin, gently apply pure coconut oil to moisturize the sunburned area. Coconut oil can help hydrate and nourish the skin, reducing dryness and peeling.

7. Natural Honey

Apply a thin layer of natural honey to the sunburned skin and leave it on for 10-15 minutes. Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote healing and reduce the risk of infection.

Remember, natural remedies may work differently for individuals, so it’s important to listen to your body and discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur. If your sunburn is severe, causing intense pain or blistering, or if you have any concerns, consult a healthcare professional for appropriate advice and guidance.

Hydration and Nutrition for Sunburn Recovery

Proper hydration and nutrition play a crucial role in supporting the healing process of sunburned skin. Here are some important considerations to aid in sunburn recovery:

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Staying well-hydrated is essential during sunburn recovery. Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to help replenish lost fluids and promote overall skin health.

2. Consume Hydrating Foods

Include hydrating foods in your diet, such as watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, oranges, and leafy greens. These foods have high water content and can contribute to your body’s hydration.

3. Opt for Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Incorporate foods with anti-inflammatory properties to reduce inflammation associated with sunburn. Include fatty fish (like salmon or mackerel), walnuts, flaxseeds, turmeric, ginger, and green leafy vegetables in your meals.

4. Increase Vitamin C Intake

Vitamin C is crucial for collagen production and skin healing. Include citrus fruits (like oranges and lemons), berries, bell peppers, and kiwi in your diet to boost your vitamin C intake.

5. Consume Foods Rich in Vitamin E

Vitamin E is known for its antioxidant properties that help protect the skin. Include foods like almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, avocados, and olive oil to increase your vitamin E levels.

6. Avoid Excessive Alcohol and Caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the body, which can hinder the healing process. Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks during sunburn recovery.

7. Consider Supplements

Consult with a healthcare professional about incorporating supplements like vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids into your routine. They can provide additional support for skin healing and overall health.

Sunburn Dos and Don’ts: What to Avoid

To promote effective healing and prevent further damage, it’s important to be aware of certain dos and don’ts when dealing with sunburn. Here are some guidelines to follow:


  1. Do Seek Shade:
    Whenever possible, seek shade to protect your sunburned skin from further exposure to UV rays.
  2. Do Stay Hydrated:
    Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and aid in the healing process of your sunburned skin.
  3. Do Apply Moisturizer:
    Gently apply a moisturizer or aloe vera gel to your sunburned skin to soothe and hydrate it.
  4. Do Wear Loose Clothing:
    Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing made of lightweight fabrics to avoid further irritation to your sunburned skin.
  5. Do Take Cool Showers:
    Take cool showers or baths to help cool and soothe your sunburned skin.


  1. Don’t Peel or Scratch:
    Avoid peeling or scratching the skin affected by sunburn, as it can delay healing and increase the risk of infection.
  2. Don’t Use Harsh Soaps:
    Avoid using harsh soaps or cleansers, as they can further irritate your sunburned skin. Opt for mild, gentle cleansers instead.
  3. Don’t Use Tanning Beds:
    Refrain from using tanning beds or exposing your sunburned skin to additional UV radiation, as it can worsen the burn and increase the risk of skin damage.
  4. Don’t Apply Ice Directly:
    Avoid applying ice directly to your sunburned skin, as it can cause further damage. Instead, use cool compresses or take cool baths.
  5. Don’t Use Petroleum-Based Products:
    Refrain from using petroleum-based products on your sunburned skin, as they can trap heat and hinder the healing process.


Sunburn can be an uncomfortable and painful experience, but with proper treatment and care, you can promote healing and alleviate discomfort. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve explored various aspects of sunburn treatment, from recognizing the symptoms to immediate steps, cooling and soothing techniques, over-the-counter remedies, natural remedies, hydration and nutrition, and important dos and don’ts.

Remember, prevention is the key to avoiding sunburn in the first place. Always protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade when the sun is strongest. However, if you do get sunburned, it’s important to take immediate action by getting out of the sun, cooling the skin, staying hydrated, and using appropriate treatments to soothe and heal the affected area.

While the provided information serves as a helpful guide, everyone’s skin is unique, and individual reactions and healing times may vary. If your sunburn is severe, causes intense pain, shows signs of infection, or if you have any concerns, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

Take care of your skin, prioritize sun safety, and embrace healthy sun habits to prevent sunburn in the future. By doing so, you can enjoy the outdoors while keeping your skin protected and maintaining its health and vitality.


Q: How long does it take for sunburn to heal?
A: The healing time for sunburn varies depending on the severity. Mild sunburns may resolve within a few days to a week, while more severe cases can take up to two weeks or longer to heal completely.

Q: Can I apply sunscreen to a sunburn?
A: It is generally not recommended to apply sunscreen to a sunburned skin. Sunscreen is meant for prevention and should be applied before sun exposure. When you have a sunburn, it’s best to focus on soothing and healing the skin rather than applying sunscreen.

Q: Should I pop the blisters from a severe sunburn?
A: No, it is not advisable to pop the blisters caused by a severe sunburn. Blisters serve as a protective barrier for the damaged skin underneath. Popping them can increase the risk of infection and slow down the healing process. It’s best to allow the blisters to heal naturally.

Q: Can I use vinegar to treat sunburn?
A: While some people believe vinegar can help relieve sunburn, it is not recommended. Vinegar can potentially irritate the skin further and may not provide significant relief. It’s better to opt for proven soothing remedies like aloe vera gel or cool compresses.

Q: When should I seek medical help for sunburn?
A: You should seek medical help for sunburn if you experience severe pain, extensive blistering, signs of infection (such as pus or increased redness), fever, dizziness, or if the sunburn covers a large area of your body.

Q: Can sunburn increase the risk of skin cancer?
A: Yes, repeated sunburns over time can increase the risk of developing skin cancer, particularly melanoma. Protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays and avoiding sunburns is crucial for maintaining skin health and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Q: Can I use coconut oil to prevent sunburn?
A: While coconut oil offers some natural sun protection, it has a relatively low sun protection factor (SPF). It is not recommended as a standalone sunscreen. For effective sun protection, it’s best to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF.

Q: Can I tan over a sunburn?
A: It is not advisable to intentionally tan over a sunburn. Tanning can further damage the already compromised skin and increase the risk of skin peeling, pigmentation changes, and long-term skin damage. It’s essential to allow your skin to heal before considering any further sun exposure.

How To Treat a Sunburn: Preventing Peeling Skin